LGBTQ+ Equality Panel welcomes the decision of Greater Manchester Combined Authority to formally adopt policy to help end LGBTQ+ conversion therapy across the city region

On Friday 25 November 2022, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)’s Board unanimously agreed to adopt a policy aimed at ending conversion therapy, which is any attempt to change, surpress or “cure” a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

GMCA took action on the recommendation of its LGBTQ+ Equality Panel after National Government’s failure to implement a nationwide ban on conversion therapy, despite the Government having pledged to do so repeatedly since 2018.

As a result, GMCA and its member local authorities across Greater Manchester have now committed to ensuring that organisations which ‘support, promote, or facilitate conversion therapy or which campaign against the ending of conversion therapy’ are not able to ‘provide services on behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, or to receive support from the GMCA or its affiliated community funding streams.’ This makes Greater Manchester the first city-region in the country to make such a commitment to protect its LGBTQ+ residents from conversion therapy.

Siân Lambert, Co-chair of the GM LGBTQ+ Equality Panel said:

‘There is ample evidence that conversion therapy doesn’t work and has long-term negative effects on many people who are subjected to it. Whilst there is almost unanimous condemnation of conversion attempts from healthcare leaders and we thankfully no longer live in the world in which Alan Turing was ordered by a court to undergo conversion therapy, these harmful practices do continue, often behind closed doors in the guise of religion or pseudo-science.

‘This pledge sends out a strong statement, not only that these harmful practices won’t be tolerated in Greater Manchester, but also that organisations who seek to harm LGBTQ+ people won’t be funded to operate in our inclusive city region.’

Brian Boag, Co-chair of the GM LGBTQ+ Equality Panel added:

‘The Panel is grateful for the leadership shown by the Mayor and the whole GMCA Board in signing up to this pledge. Greater Manchester has long had a reputation for being a safe and welcoming city region for LGBTQ+ people and our community will feel reassured that their leaders are doing everything they can to protect us from these harmful practices.’

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester said:

‘We are proud to make this commitment and send a clear message about our values here in Greater Manchester. We stand together with the LGBTQ+ community across our city-region in opposing and ending conversion therapy in all its forms, and urge other public bodies, organisations and businesses to join us in this pledge.’

Dr Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of LGBT Foundation said:

‘LGBT Foundation recognise the urgent need for a long-overdue national ban on conversion therapy practices for all members of LGBTQ+ communities. Against a national background of consistent retracted promises and further delays on an inclusive conversion therapy ban, this announcement further illustrates Greater Manchester’s commitment to equality for all. LGBT Foundation looks forward to collaborating further with the GMCA and the GM LGBTQ+ Equality Panel on ensuring this ban is operational and enforced across the region.’

GMCA also adopted a formal definition of conversion therapy which aligns with that adopted by leading medical organisations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of GPs and NHS England:

‘Conversion “therapy” or practices are any interventions with a predetermined outcome aimed at changing, suppressing, or “curing” a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.’

This definition avoids misinformation and misappropriation of the issue of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. It specifically excludes things like gender affirmative care and any form of genuine therapeutic explorations which do not have predetermined outcomes but are based on letting individuals safely explore identity, and therefore safeguards any health practitioner. The definition also provides a level of clarity around ambiguous religious and cultural practices that may try to get exemptions from protective legislation and policies, such as attempting to ‘pray away the gay’.

A non-exhaustive list conversion therapy practices includes pseudo-scientific counselling sessions; being induced to ingest “purifying” substances; corrective rape; being prayed over as a form of “healing”; and exorcisms.

The Government’s National LGBT Survey (2018) found that:

  • 2% of respondents had previously undergone conversion therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBT, and a further 5% had been offered it.
  • Trans respondents were much more likely to have undergone or been offered conversion therapy (13%) than cisgender (non-trans) respondents (7%)
  • LGBTQ+ people of colour were almost twice as likely to be affected, and there was strong variation by religion/belief.
Of those who had undergone conversion therapy:
  • 51% said that faith organisations had conducted this
  • 19% said healthcare providers or medical professionals had conducted this
  • 16% said their parents, guardians or other family members had conducted this

Following a meeting with the Greater Manchester LGBTQ+ Equality Panel in October 2022, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester raised an urgent business item at the November GMCA Board meeting to obtain formal agreement from the Board for the Panel’s GM Pledge to End Conversion Therapy. A recording of the GMCA Board meeting can be found on GMCA’s website (item begins at 14:05).